Businesses in Micronesia region implement vaccination requirement
Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank and United Airlines will require regional staff to vaccinate, the companies confirmed to the Journal.
Both banks confirmed Aug. 7 that – as with staff in Hawaii – they will require employees to show proof of full vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, effective Sept. 30.
Bank of Hawaii does business in Guam, Saipan and Palau.
First Hawaiian Bank does business in Guam and Saipan.
According to the Deloitte & Touche LLP ASC Trust LLC list of the Top Companies in Micronesia in the November-December 2020 issue of Guam Business Magazine, BOH has 91 staff in the region and FHB has 122 staff in the region.
United Airlines confirmed the same date that its employees in Guam and Saipan will follow the airline’s announcement on Aug. 6 from Chicago – that it will require its U.S. employees to vaccinate five weeks after the U.S. Federal Drug Administration fully approves Covid vaccines or five weeks after Sept. 20, whichever is first.
According to Journal files, United Airlines has about 900 employees in the region, the majority of which are in Guam.
Guam Regional Medical City announced in June a vaccination requirement for employees beginning with management on July 1, and other and new employees from Aug. 1.
Other businesses in the region are expected to announce similar policies.
The executive branch of the Government of Guam and the government of the Northern Mariana Islands also require employees to vaccinate. GovGuam offers the option of weekly testing. The NMI government – which requires vaccination or for employees to leave government employment – is facing a lawsuit from firefighters, according to Journal files.
The Federated States of Micronesia announced in July a requirement for all residents to vaccinate.
U.S. military and other federal employees are also expected to be required to vaccinate when the FDA approves the vaccines.
A step forward and then a step back
The first case of the Delta Variant and an increase in COVID positives – which include vaccinated individuals – has led to a return to tight restrictions in the Northern Mariana Islands.
An Aug. 8 release from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. announced the first Delta Variant in the NMI.
On the same date, the CHCC told the Journal that “15 of the last 23 positive cases we reported were vaccinated.
“Some reported symptoms, but there were no reported severe illnesses, nor were there any hospitalizations after reported illnesses.”
From Aug. 10, all arrivals to Saipan – the entry point for the NMI– will be required to quarantine.
The latest policy change – announced the evening of Aug. 8 – said all inbound travelers will quarantine in “a government facility,” with the exception of fully vaccinated arrivals, who may apply to quarantine in their lodging after vaccine verification, “passing a lodging or household assessment, receiving a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival, and attesting to strict Restriction of Movement until a negative test result is received from the required 5th-day COVID-19 test.” The lodging assessment and 5th day test are not new.
For fully vaccinated essential status arrivals, the “ability to maintain social distancing inside the workplace, on the exposure risk to an identified positive case, or as deemed necessary,” will determine whether their movement is restricted or not.Travelers will be monitored randomly by the task force throughout the required five-day quarantine, the release said. Health declaration forms for those traveling to the NMI are available at https://governor.gov.mp/covid-19/travel.
Guam has also seen a rise in positive cases among residents, as has the U.S. military.
Joint Region Marianas separately notified the Journal on Aug. 5, that of a total of 69 recent positive cases among U.S. military personnel, 43 were unvaccinated and 26 were vaccinated.
British carrier group personnel head to town, commodore discusses future presence
At a Aug. 6 press conference onboard the 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, Cdre. Steve Moorehouse commander of the HMS Queen Elizabeth Strike Group said the for the first time since the 1940s, “… we have a mixed air wing of United States aircraft and United Kingdom aircraft.” Of the F35s on the aircraft carrier, Moorhouse said eight are from the U.K. and 10 are of the U.S. Marine Corps (Fighter Attack Squadron 211).
Apart from destroyers, frigates and tankers from the U.K., other units include a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer and a Dutch frigate. The group has also exercised with allies and partners, Moorehouse said. In its deployment to 70 ports and 40 countries, Moorehouse said of the carrier, “We’re looking to support United Kingdom objectives in developing military relationships – diplomatic, economic [relationships], etc. Daily testing had not received a positive in two weeks, Moorehouse said on Aug. 6.
On the HMS Queen Elizabeth, COVID cases were at single figures, with about 20 trace contacts, he said. They remain isolated on the ship,” he said, adding those people would not be going ashore.
The commodore was at pains to assure that though personnel from three ships had caught COVID in the Mediterranean (Gibraltar), all personnel are fully vaccinated. With accommodation onboard, any positives and their contacts would be easy to isolate, Moorhouse said.
Moorehouse said supplies, including fuel and fresh produce would be loaded in Guam.
Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero although she knew the island’s compassion and hospitality, she “of course went through some questioning with the commodore and … he assured me that no one that is not vaccinated will go out into our community. He also assured me that he will abide with the protocols that Adm. Nicholson had just sent out.”
The Queen Elizabeth is in port until Aug. 13. Moorehouse told the Journal that personnel in the carrier group would go ashore to see the island. “I’ve got 3,600 people that haven’t been ashore and spent any of their hard-earned pay for six or seven weeks.” The sailors, Marines and airmen would be looking forward to sampling “bars, restaurants, hotels and leisure facilities,” the commodore said. Businesses in Guam will definitely benefit, he said.
The U.K. will have further presence in the region, Moorehouse said. “When we go, that’s not the Royal Navy leaving,” he said.
HMS Spey and HMS Tamar offshore patrol vessels will deploy to the region at the end of August, according to a release from the U.K. Ministry of Defense, “and will be supported by partners during their operations, including Australia, Japan and Singapore.”
Palau president spends a week in Hawaii and D.C.
President Surangel S. Whipps left Palau Aug. 1 (as the Journal earlier reported) for a week of meetings in Hawaii and Washington D.C.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Whipps Aug. 5, as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Debra A. Haaland. Apart from exercises that have taken part in Palau, the U.S. also has various radar capabilities there and is increasing those, according to Journal files. (See various stories on www.mbjguam.com .
Austin said, “ … we appreciate the opportunity to also deploy equipment to Palau that lets us exercise in our joint capabilities and enhanced deterrence.”
Wilsbach, Pacific Air Force Commander, had flown to Palau on Aug. 28, Whipps said. Wilsbach also visited Guam and Tinian during Pacific Iron 2021, when 35 aircraft and approximately 800 airmen from U.S. Pacific Air Forces and Air Combat Command were training, according to PACAF.
Whipps also participated in a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Solder at Arlington National Cemetery.
Guam legislature passes variety of bills
Bills passed by the 36th Guam Legislature:
- Increase set annual fees for companies who lease submerged land owned by the Chamorro Land Trust Commission to $100,000 per cable;
- Exempt medical and telemedicine equipment from the business privilege tax;
- Change additional village names to reflect CHamoru language pronunciation; and
- Increase RISE Act payments from $800 to $1,000 for single tax filers and $1,600 for joint tax filers.
Guam payments to residents have a cap of $40,000 for single filers and $80,000 for joint filers. The Northern Mariana Islands will issue payments of $500 to all tax filers, regardless of taxable income.
In addition to the Aug. 6 award for five towers of accommodation at Camp Blaz, the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Pacific also announced the award the same day of a $33.5 million firm-fixed price contract to the same joint venture of Core Tech International, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co and Kajima Corp. for the construction of a fire station at Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz.
That award is also funded by Japanese funding, known as Mamizu money.
For your diary:
The Guam Visitors Bureau will host “Digital Academy S7 – Mobile Payment & Contactless Services” on Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. (CHST), focusing on “popular mobile payment methods utilized by consumers from Asia and how your business can implement touchless payment experiences for future visitors.” The workshop will cover mobile payment trends in the Asia Pacific, choosing a provider for your business, creating touchless experiences for travelers and travel and tourism case studies for U.S. merchants.
The workshop is free to GVB/Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association members. To register, see https://www.runtheworld.today/app/invitation/31533. mbj